Update 8/10/18 – Three Upper Darby residents have filed an appeal against the zoning-hearing board for approving the MCBH Drexeline Plaza project on June 28. Donald Fields, Bonnie Hallam and Janice Haman filed the petition on July 27 in common pleas court, arguing the board “abused its discretion and committed errors of law” in making its decision, according to the source.
The citizens took issue primarily at granted variances they believe will have a negative environmental impact on the area, particularly the elimination of stream buffers along Darby Creek and the use of impervious space as dictated by town code, the source reported.
In an opinion report, officials indicated a remedy for storm-water runoff would be provided as part of the project, while improvements along the creek and a reduction of an impervious surface are “dynamically better than the present condition.” Among the conditions required as part of board approval was a provision that MCBH provide underground retention/detention facilities for storm-water management.
Kilkenny Law LLC is representing the citizen group. A hearing hasn’t been scheduled to hear the appeal.
6/5/18 – MCBH Drexeline Plaza LP, an affiliate of commercial real estate investment firm MCB Real Estate LLC, has proposed a mixed-use project including self-storage to revitalize the Drexeline Town Center in the Drexel Hill area of Upper Darby, Pa. The plan includes an 800-unit storage facility in addition to a 142-unit apartment building, a Wawa convenience store, a medical center and underground parking for 190 vehicles. Combining four parcels into one, the project would also involve renovations to Anthony’s Restaurant, PNC Bank and a Shop Rite supermarket, which operate on the 16.5-acre site at 5100 State Road, according to the source.
The application includes 12 variances and one special exception related to apartments, building-height restrictions, the self-storage facility and location of loading docks. The site is zoned for traditional, general-commercial uses. “The trend today is mixed-use,” Dan Shabel, a portfolio manager at MCB, told the zoning board during a recent meeting.
The project would require the demolition of most existing buildings. Shabel indicated the first phase would focus on construction of the apartment building and convenience store, along with renovations to the bank and restaurant. The self-storage facility would be designed to look like an apartment building, the source reported. Construction for the entire project is estimated at up to three years.
Part of the site redesign would improve ingress and egress on the property and allow the developer to add green space, including a meadow between Wawa and Darby Creek. A walking path along the creek is also part of the plan, along with new sidewalks and crosswalks and traffic-signal upgrades. “The entire property will be walkable,” Shabel said.
The project would allow Shop Rite to expand from 50,000 to 75,000 square feet, which is necessary for the market to survive at its present location, owner Patrick Burns told the board. Additions would include a second-floor family restaurant, pharmacy, cooking classes and a nutritionist. “I need to expand or move,” Burns said.
A four-hour meeting about the development attracted several residents, many of whom indicated they would like to see the site redeveloped but were wary of all the variances. “Storage facilities are prohibited in the comprehensive plan,” resident Jennifer Hallam told the board. “It is not evident the neighborhood is in need of self-storage.”
Though the board delayed a decision until June 28, four councilmembers and state representative Jamie Santora publicly expressed their support for the project. “I want to see this site developed,” Santora said during the meeting. “[MCB has] other town centers and are top-notch, and we need this in Upper Darby. We have an opportunity to increase the value of the gateway to Upper Darby. We want the trail to go in the earliest phase possible.”
Town planners estimate the project would create 370 direct and indirect jobs and yield $120 million during construction. The final project would generate an estimated 540 jobs, the source reported.
MCB Real Estate is a privately held, institutionally capitalized, commercial real estate investment firm that acquires, develops, manages and capitalizes assets in the industrial, mixed-use, office and retail sectors. It owns and operates approximately 6 million square feet of commercial property, according to its website.